A Room of One's Own

by Virginia Woolf

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What types of language does Virginia Woolf use in A Room of One's Own?

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The language Virginia Woolf uses in A Room of One's Own is formal and polemical but also personal. In the essay, composed in the first person, Woolf argues for greater freedom and independence for women, specifically in the field of literature.

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Early in the first section of A Room of One's Own, Woolf argues that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write." Here, Woolf puts forward a simple, clear line of argument. Indeed, the simplicity of this argument is indicated by the fact that the title of the book is taken from this particular quotation. The auxiliary verb "must" indicates Woolf's forceful, personal, polemical tone. Woolf uses this same auxiliary verb often, writing, for example, that "fiction must stick to facts" and that "one must submit to the social convention."

In order to make her arguments as clear as possible, Woolf also uses plenty of figurative language. She uses a simile, for example, when she writes that "fiction is like a spider's web," and she uses a metaphor when she writes that "literature is strewn with the wreckage of men." The simile in the first quotation helps convey the point that fiction is comprised of many delicate connections, painstakingly spun by the author. The metaphor in the second quote helps to convey Woolf's argument that literature has for too long, and to its lasting detriment, been dominated by men. These figurative phrases help to convey ideas and arguments to the reader and thus contribute to the forceful tone of Woolf's writing.

The personal tone is also a key characteristic of Woolf's language. In both sections of the essay, there are a number of first-person phrases like "I recollected," "as I had been thinking," and "I reflected." Phrases like these remind the reader that these views are personal to the author and are the product of the author's own experiences and meditations. This is made clear at the beginning of the book, where Woolf writes that upon being asked to write these essays about women and literature, "I sat down on the banks of a river and began to wonder what the words meant."

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